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Cassanova McKinzy prefers linebacker, but ready to make impact up front

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

San Jose State wide receiver Hansell Wilson (87) fumbles the ball against Auburn defensive back Johnathan Ford (23) and Auburn linebacker JaViere Mitchell (16) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Auburn, Ala.
San Jose State wide receiver Hansell Wilson (87) fumbles the ball against Auburn defensive back Johnathan Ford (23) and Auburn linebacker JaViere Mitchell (16) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. AP Photo

Cassanova McKinzy wasn’t looking to change positions this late in his career.

“I prefer linebacker,” the senior said, sitting down in Auburn’s media room following a 35-21 win over San Jose State.

Prior to Saturday’s game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp moved McKinzy from linebacker to defensive end in hopes of jump-starting the Tigers’ pass rush.

Without the injured Carl Lawson, Auburn went two full games without a sack on the opposing team’s quarterback.

McKinzy had been in and out of the starting lineup at linebacker, but remained one of the team’s more consistent pass rushers.

“I know using Cassanova because he’s probably the best pass-rusher outside of Carl Lawson,” teammate Justin Garrett said, earlier in the week. “Both of them are very excellent when it comes to pass-rushing, so I know use him and dial up different blitz packages and stuff like that.”

Despite preferring the linebacker position, McKinzy vowed to make the most of his time on the line for as long as Muschamp needs him.

“Everything happens for a reason,” McKinzy said. “I’m trying to help the team anyway I can, just playing my part and put my heart into it. I know for a fact I’m going to succeed ay anything I do.”

McKinzy’s first shot on the line paid dividends. He was credited with Auburn’s lone sack of the night, it’s first in 13 quarters, and had three hits on the quarterback. He also had four tackles, two solo.

“It’s a little more free,” McKinzy said, of the position.

The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder said he hopes to turn those quarterback hits into sacks in two weeks at Kentucky.

“It’s a great position to be able to make plays,” McKinzy said.

McKinzy came into the season with 28 career starts. His lone start prior to Saturday came against LSU. The Birmingham native’s best game of the year was a 13-tackle performance against Jacksonville State. He had two sacks, including one in overtime that helped seal the victory.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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